I swear sometimes I can read a 400-page book and discover only one visual or a single trivial oddity that captures my imagination and makes its way into a new novel. I won't tell you which of these fascinating facts is the one but here's what I gleaned from The Axe and the Oath: Ordinary Life in the Middle Ages, by Robert Fossier, (Princeton University Press, 2010)
Best facts first:
- The fire or hearth went from outside the house to inside sometime between 900-1100 AD.
- Last rites could be given by laypeople, even criminals, during the Black Death and early Middle Ages.
- Children who died without baptism or were stillborn were buried under the threshold of the home to prevent demons from seizing it and turning it into a changeling.
- Women worked salt marshes and salt pans in fishing villages, hard physical work to produce the salt required to preserve food.
- Churchman San Bernardino of Sienna maintained that a fetus less than 40 days old could be aborted for reasons of health or poverty. Herbal abortion recipes were well known.
- Wine was not kept from one season to the next. It was either consumed or destroyed.
- Houses of prostitution were kept by the Church, noted here and detailed in my first book, A Herstory of Prostitution in Western Europe.
Here are other gems: